Pleasantly untouristed, Dong Hoi is a port and seaside town with no souvenir shops and a lack of hassle. It enjoys an attractive location, clinging to the banks of the Nhat Le River, and has beaches to the north and south.
As the main staging area for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Dong Hoi suffered more than most during the American War. The town has since recovered as a congenial provincial capital.
The Nhat Le River, which divides the city from a beautiful sandy spit, boasts a landscaped riverside promenade that includes the haunting, ruined facade of the Tam Toa Church , which was bombed in 1965.
All that remains of Dong Hoi Citadel (1825) are two restored gates, one close to the riverbank, the other on Ð Quang Trung.
( 052-384 5868; www.atoztourist.com; 29 Ð Ly Thuong Kiet) Contact for tours to Phong Nha or open-tour bus tickets.
Sleeping & Eating( 052-382 1851; [email protected]; 22 Ð Ho Xuan Huong) Day trips to Phong Nha cost 800,000d (minimum two people).
( 052-382 1851; [email protected]; 22 Ð Ho Xuan Huong; dm US$5, r US$12-15) Simply excellent budget hotel run by Nga and Sy, a welcoming, ever-helpful, English-speaking couple. Rooms are bright and airy with enormous windows – book 301 for a river-view balcony. The new eight-bed dorm is superb, with two en-suite bathrooms and its own balcony with great views. Breakfast is available, and Phong Nha tours and onward buses can be organised.
(nga_namlonghote[email protected]; 28A Ð Phan Chu Trinh; dm US$7, s US$13-16, d US$18-26) Fine new eight-storey hotel, with 19 comfortable, spacious rooms all with city or river views. A free hot breakfast is included, service is good and tours can be arranged.
Sunshine Hotel HOTEL $
( 052-381 1333; http://anhduonghotel.com.vn; 301 Ð Ly Thuong Kiet; r 240,000-400,000d) A new minihotel renowned for its excellent service. Manager Cindy is a fluent English speaker and can help with bike rentals and transport. Rooms are clean and good value.
( 052-384 2999; www.sunsparesortvietnam.com; My Canh; r & ste US$90-165, bungalow & villa from US$190) Huge beachside resort in landscaped grounds complete with two pools, a spa and tennis courts. The rooms and villas are spacious and well presented, but perhaps don’t really hit the five-star billing.
(17 Ð Co Tam; meals 20,000-40,000d; 7am-8.30pm) This area is famous for its banh khoai (shrimp pancake) restaurants, of which Tu Quy is one of the best and has streetside tables with the river in sight.
QB Teen INTERNATIONAL $
(3 Ð Le Loi; meals 32,000-80,000d; 7am-9pm) Small place that serves pretty decent (for Dong Hoi) Western fare including pizza, pasta and omelettes as well as a few Vietnamese dishes. It’s air-conditioned.
Staff at both the Nam Long and Sunshine hotels can organise motorbike (150,000d to 200,000d per day) and bicycle rentals (80,000d), provide maps and book bus tickets.
Agribank (2 Ð Me Suot; 7.30am-4pm Mon-Fri, 7.30am-12.30pm Sat) Has an ATM and exchange services.
The airport is 6km north of town. Vietnam Airlines operates daily flights to Hanoi and four connections per week to HCMC.
From the bus station (Ð Tran Hung Dao), travellers can catch services south to Danang (115,000d, 5½ hours, eight daily), via Hue (92,000d, four hours) and Dong Ha (54,000d, two hours), and north to Hanoi (174,000d, eight hours). It’s easy to leave an open-tour bus in Dong Hoi, but for a pick-up, book via a travel agency or hotel.
To get to Laos, buses leave for the Lao towns of Vien Chan and Savannakhet (430,000d, 12 hours, both at 6.30am Monday to Saturday only) via the quiet Cha Lo–Na Phao border crossing where Lao visas are available.
Local buses (98,000d, four hours, five daily) also leave for the border at Lao Bao.
The train station (Ga Dong Hoi; Ð Thuan Ly) is 3km west of the centre. Trains leave for destinations including Hanoi (374,000d, 9½ to 11½ hours, five daily), Hue (118,000d, three to four hours, six daily) and Danang (155,000d, five hours, six daily). All prices quoted are for soft seats on express trains.